Against all expectations, I fell asleep without too much trouble. When I woke up around 5:15, I wasn’t really all that happy to go out of bed just yet. I first had to convince myself this was actually the big day. After that started to sink in, I jumped out of bed… and broke my ankle!!! …
Man that would be a bad ending of this blog! In reality I just started my morning routine and put the bags in the car. I waved the folks goodbye and set off. It would be a 2 hour drive to the ferry. The sunrise was great and after an uneventful drive I arrived and crossed the sea (“Waddenzee”). I then arrived at the island of Texel. It was around 9 AM and the course started at ten so I took it easy.
I parked my car at the dropzone (Paracentrum Texel) around 9:15. I went to the hangar and they were starting things up: Rolling planes out of the hangar, performing checks on the planes, vacuuming the hangar floor. The atmosphere was good, everyone was looking forward to a nice day of jumping. I noticed, however, that the weather turned for the worse now. There was some drizzle of rain. They weren’t worried however, after this one rainy cloud things would clear up nicely according to the radar.
Soon I found some other students dropping in. Soon after, some kind of military force invaded the area as well. It turned out they were a unit from the Danish military that wanted to get their wings. As things moved on, we were placed into classes. It was now pretty busy and they asked if I was okay with an English class instead. I didn’t mind so I ended up in the group with the Danish people along with a few other (Dutch) AFF people. Some of us wondered why the Danish army would come all the way out here to get their wings. It later turned out they just came here because the quality of education and the high safety standards. That’s a pretty reassuring idea I thought.
So, the training started! The group sat in a classroom and the flow of information started and went on for a couple of hours. After a short break we continued and had to go through the canopy check procedure. They wanted the whole group to stand up, do it and say it out loud in perfect harmony like a group of Chinese schoolkids. After a few tries we got this right. I realized there’s a big difference between knowing what to do, and actually doing what you know. You have to translate what you learn into an automatic, muscle memory kind of skill so that you don’t have to think about it. Repetition is of course the key!
We now covered a lot of procedures about how to check the canopy and the reserve procedure. I had a thought that was pretty much like this: “Wow I’m now not just reading this in Wikipedia here or something, this is the real deal now.” This realization made me smile though, because this is the path I wanted to be on, and now it’s here!
After a lunch break we did some PLF (ParaLanding Fall) training. Then we went out on the field towards the landing area. After getting told where to land and where not to land we standed in a circle and performed the PLF’s in a wave like fashion. It was a fun experience, the sun was now out and it was funny to see all people make their roll one after the other. After this scouting experience there was more classroom time and more and more information. We now had to draw up landing patterns and learned all about steering and flaring. During the day we all had to recite the procedures at random, they really got nailed in.
After a long day of about 7/8 hours of all kinds of training we were done! But.. only for today. This was just the basic training that’s the same for static-line and AFF. We were expected to return the next morning at 9 am for AFF specific training.
I discovered one of the AFF students was staying in the same hotel nearby, as well as the Danish unit. It now really felt like not only this dropzone is about skydiving, the whole area is like a skydiving community, awesome! I returned to the car and checked into the hotel. I had dinner, relaxed and recited my procedures. This was mainly in preparation for the harnasstest we would have to pass on the next day in order to jump. After this I preferred some relaxation in order to process all the information given on this day. I went to bed after that. I was lying there wondering if my anticipation of jumping would keep me awake. I can’t remember anything after that so I felt asleep right after
Soon.. day 2!